Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tap Takeover at The Office

Bartender Casey
Scott Van Guilder just keeps raising the bar. The Beer Bar, that is.

Hard on the heels of a successful Blind Tasting and a full blown Beer Dinner, the manager of the Office in Bridgewater arranged for a Tap Takeover on the night of the Winter Solstice.

Having friendly, beer-savvy bartenders like Casey (above), who cut her beer teeth in Bermuda's HogPenny Pub at age 12, might have had something to do with the fact that the place was pretty crowded with both its normal Friday night clientele and an influx of Craft Beer lovers. Some folks, like homebrewer Rich who was seated next to me at the bar, fell into both categories. Rich and his buddies were pressing Van Guilder to turn up the volume on the Christmas music, and Van Guilder obliged. Others, like beer nut Gregg Zizza, were there to sample the beers, as beer nuts are wont to do.

Gregg Zizza
But the music and Casey weren't the only things bringing good cheer. A lineup of excellent beers, mostly from Sam Adams, helped in that area. SA offered its flagship Lager, Rebel Stout, Merry Maker, Just IPA, Winter Lager and Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider. The affable and knowledgeable SA rep Brandon also came bearing gifts in the form of those special Sam's glasses, hats, shirts and churchkeys.

If you knew the rep (as I confess I did, having met Brandon at other beer events), you might also have had the chance to sample some as yet unavailable Rebel IPA. And though IPA's are not my usual winter go-to fare, this Rebel was actually quite tasty and very smooth. An excellent nose, not-crazily-hopped taste and an exceptional finish will likely make this one an SA winner when it does come out. It is decidedly different than the SA Just IPA which was being offered, too.

But for my money, the Merry Maker (or Merry Mischief) at 9% fully lived up to both of its names.

Of course, Sam wasn't the only one at the party. Yard's sent its wonderful George Washington's Tavern Porter, and Great Lakes put forth its Christmas Ale for the event, which necessitated removing the Edmund Fitzgerald that occupied the tap previously.

The Christmas Ale, a copper/golden spiced ale, carried distinctive spice flavors of ginger and cinnamon (some might suggest even cardamom) and had a nice spicy, almost peppery finish. None of the flavors in this 7.5%-er were overpowering, but they worked together in an great balance.

And as though those beers weren't enough, the delightful Kim was walking around with samples of a tequila called Cabo Wabo. I'm not a big tequila drinker, either con (with) or sin (without) gusano (worm), but this coffee flavored concoction would make a superb after dinner drink.

Kim puts Gregg in a trance...
The point of this event was to allow Van Guilder to show his current beer-loving clients and those to come that he not only knows his beer, but that he is embarked upon a mission to let beer lovers know that The Office is a real beer destination.

Considering the increasing frequency of my own visits, he's clearly sold me.

Merry Christmas!
The PubScout

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Got Cockles?

Just what are cockles anyway?
No, not the ones from that old song about Sweet Molly Malone.

They were bivalves, as in clams, etc.

I mean the ones that are supposedly connected with--or to-- your heart. As in "'Twill warm the cockles of your heart." Turns out that the origin of the phrase is as murky as the mud in which clams live.

Go here if you want to learn that story (as you should around this festive time.)

But go here if you actually want to warm your cockles once you find them.

Because This Friday is the Sam Adams Tap Takeover, also featuring the Cabo Wabo Tequila Girls, as well as tapping this years Great Lakes Winters Ale, Yards General Washington Tavern Porter and Sam Adams Merry Maker.
(Nee Merry Mischief...)

If you're into beer, as you should be if you're reading this, the three beers should be enticing enough.

But the Cabo Wabo Tequila Girls might also pique your curiosity.

Or warm your cockles, like they seem to be doing to Sammy Hagar in the picture at left.


It's all happening this Friday, December 20 at The Office in Bridgewater, NJ.

See you there!
Bring your cockles.

The PubScout

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When Father Time Taps you on the Shoulder...

It's only natural, I suppose.

As 2013 winds to a close and 2014 approaches, those of us lucky enough to have been around for many moons begin to wonder just how many more "moons" we have left. More importantly, how will we spend whatever time we have left?

Here's a suggestion: Enjoy it.

And you can do that by checking out what Mike Proske has arranged for New Year's Eve 2013 at his fabulous restaurant--Tapastre.

Start your New Year's Eve Celebrations off right!
Our popular 5-Course Beer Pairing Dinner is scheduled for 
Tuesday, December 31st at 6:30 pm.
5 Courses of Tapas and 5 Craft Beer samplers (6 oz). 
$55 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

We start at 6:30 pm and will finish with plenty of time to get to your New Year's Eve parties! 

 Reservations required and seating is limited.  
Please specify table or bar seating. 
Reservations can be made 
by phone at 908 526-0505, 
 via email to 

 First Course 
Bacon-wrapped-Scallop-wrapped Bacon!
Arugula, Frisee, Hop Vinaigrette

Second Course 
White Cheddar IPA Soup
Housemade Barley Cracker 

Third Course 
Pan-roasted Black Sea Bass
 Shrimp "Noodles", Ginger Broth, Winter Spinach 

Kaffir Lime Leaf & Lemon Drop Granita

Fourth Course 
Grilled Herb Marinated Hanger Steak
 Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Stout Demi-Glace

Belgian Chocolate Creme Brulee

Featuring beers from Boulder, Great Lakes, Victory and more...

Mike Proske and Mom

I know this kid can really pair food and beer, so prepare for an excellent experience.

But one comment in his message bothered me:
"We start at 6:30 pm and will finish with plenty of time to get to your New Year's Eve parties!"

Huh? You mean go out to party till the wee hours after a beer dinner like this? Though I can recall the times when I would "go out" at 10 PM, now, with Father Time's nudging, I'm actually "out" at 10 PM.

Especially after a beer event like this promises to be. I'd just go home, plop down in my Barcalounger, likely nod off immediately and get up only to repair to my comfy bed. With a stop at the john, of course.

If you know what I'm talking about, we are kindred. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will.

Trust me on this.

The PubScout

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Hit from Trap Rock: The Secret is Out!

I received a very interesting piece of information recently regarding activity at one of my favorite brewpubs--Trap Rock. Especially given our current spate of "global warming" weather, I share it gladly with you:

New Beer on the Secret Tap
Word is that Charlie [Schroeder] has just put a new beer on the secret tap called Nefarious. It is also nicknamed "the little brother to Aegir's Pride." It's a dark Belgian with wonderful deep flavor, perfect for sipping while sitting in front of a fireplace. And it comes in at a healthy 9%.
Also, in a fit of holiday largesse, Charlie is allowing this wonderful brew to be sold in growlers, although at $20 a pop instead of the usual rate. Come in and get your growlers filled before he changes his mind.

Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.
Just trying to keep the "warming" in "global."

The PubScout

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Can We Do This Once A Month?"

Nancy, Larry and Ron enjoy a beer moment
The title of today's column is an actual quote from a Beer Nut who drove up from Old Bridge, made midway through the appetizer course at last night's first-ever Beer Dinner at The Office on Rt. 22 in Bridgewater.

And the quick answer is, "No. We cannot."

Because while being sated with fine food and good beer after enjoying great company and good cheer is most pleasurable, waddling to my car and anticipating trying to work off the calories I just put on shouldn't be a monthly event. Tri-monthly maybe, but not monthly.

This dinner was intended to serve a few purposes for Scott Van Guilder and his Office crew. First, it was kind of a "Shakedown Cruise" where you take a new ship out on the ocean to see what--if any--problems pop up. Second, it was designed to make beer and food lovers in The Office's immediate "catchment" area aware of the might array of craft beer here and the quality of The Office's food.

Natalie and Rob raise a toast
And lastly, it was designed as a stepping stone to future beer dinners and beer events run by a guy--Van Guilder--with a passion for beer.

When it comes to beer dinners,"Firsties," (a term coined by The PubScout) are always interesting and in many ways, enlightening. They usually start off with a small, intimate group of beer and food lovers, and when the post-dinner word goes out about the menu, the beers, the service, the camaraderie and the good times, the number of attendees grows for future events. Another local chain that tried this formula had just seven guests for its firstie, but after doing three dinners in a year, that number blossomed to forty regulars. The lesson? If you host them regularly, they will come.

Different generations enjoy Beer Dinners
That's nothing to sneeze at on a Monday or Tuesday night in the bar business. While the profit margin on beer dinners is decidedly not gargantuan, it's about more than that. It's about encouraging a beer and food culture that keeps people coming back to your place, even without a beer dinner going on.

What's left of dessert...
Having a special menu comes also into play. Why would Joe Beer come to a beer dinner when he could get the same menu items and beer he knows he enjoys more cheaply than what a beer dinner would cost him? Van Guilder mixed his menu last night, having some of the items regularly available and some specially made. He allowed that in future, he could and would make the whole menu special. His background as a chef gives him that flexibility. And Van Guilder's beer passion allows him to offer Joe Beer special brews he may have never had, but might wind up liking.

Special, however, is one thing. Portions are another. There was a goodly amount of food carried out in "doggie bags" (though they look nothing like 'bags' to me) by sated attendees last night. The rib that appeared on my plate was seemingly from a Triceratops.

And I heard "This is the best pairing of the night!" spoken about at least three of the five courses. The Ale and Cheese Soup (which worked, interestingly, with the first two beers), the Ahi Tuna and Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA and the chocolate dessert paired with Sam Adams Merry Maker received glowing assessments. Personally, I enjoyed the Dark Depths Baltic Porter and the ribs the most.

The Merry Maker--non-beer version...
I also very much liked the Merry Maker, never having had it before, but I had the sense that Old Fezziwig (Sam's Superb Seasonal) may have danced a light hornpipe in this beer somewhere along the production line.

Good food, good beer and good company usually make for a great night, and the camaraderie generated around the table was positive
--especially during Trivia Time, where in a twist, everyone got to read some questions to stump the long table. Larry continued his personal study of dry-hopping, Nancy was fixated on what a beer's head meant and Natalie lined up her glasses OCD style.

I'd say the Shakedown Cruise went pretty well, considering that $60 covered the dinner, the beers, the tax and the tip. And Scott threw in a delightful "palate cleanser" that wasn't on the menu free of charge. Its identity, however, has to remain a closely-guarded secret.
The laughs and the lip-smacking were free, too.

So when's the next one?
Stay tuned!

The PubScout